Matthew 5:23-24 says, "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
The word "Relationship" is defined as, "The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected [Merriam-Webster]."
A relationship takes two people, always. The most important relationship we can have is our relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship with Jesus is not a one-way street. In order to grow closer to Christ we must spend quality time with Him by reading His word and praying. Whether it be a married couple or two friends or two business partners working together, it takes two to have a relationship. It is two people coming together to work together and grow together. Will things always go smoothly and will everyone get along? Of course not! Will you always agree with your business partner, spouse, or best friend? Nope!
A relationship goes sour because one person does the damage or both sides do the damage together by not working through conflict. Pride gets in the way and no one wants to see their fault in the matter so the relationship is damaged and sometimes even over for good. Add in withholding forgiveness and not communicating clearly and you've got a perfect recipe that will cause a damaged relationship.
So how do we fix a relationship that we caused stress in or maybe even ruined? How do we continue to nurture our relationship with someone we care about deeply even though they have forgotten about us? Is it okay to separate ourselves from a relationship when necessary?
Here is what God is teaching me about relationships and a few personal experiences I have had.
C.S Lewis once said, "Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense."
How true it is that pride, many times, is the root cause of a damaged relationship. We felt as if the person was unfair or unkind to us all while forgetting that we have hurt others as well. I know that I have been quick to forget that I am not always the perfect person when it comes to relationships. I can forget to put the other person before my self and only look out for my best interest. I forget to check in on friends to make sure they're okay. I don't always put my spouse first. I get the stubborn mindset that if a person doesn't make the first move to be my friend then I won't either. Ouch! It is hard to accept that we do these things, but if we are all honest with ourselves we know that it is true. We let the pride monster rise up inside of our flesh and bones and have to uproot it or it will overtake us.
Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
2. Admit When You're Wrong & Don't Boast When You're Right
This goes hand in hand with pride as not admitting you're wrong (when you know you really are) is prideful and it is equally prideful to boast when you're right. There is not a single person on earth who was born perfect. We were all born with a disease... we have a sin sickness. Without putting our faith in Christ and giving our hearts to Him we are doomed. We are all on a level playing field as we all desperately need Jesus. If you have hurt someone don't hesitate to own up to what you did and apologize. Life is really short. Incredibly short in the grand scheme of things so be quick to forgive. We, dear child of God, have been forgiven of much. Equally, if you're right and you're the one who was wronged in the situation, forgive and don't boast about how you were right. We don't all have it together all of the time either. That is OKAY! We all mess up! What makes things right is when we accept responsibility for what we did and/or forgive the other person who wronged us.
Mark 11:25 says, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
3. "Houston, we have a problem!"
"The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding [Unknown]."
It is easy to miscommunicate with your spouse, friend, business partner, (fill in the blank). I know that my husband and I have had this issue in our marriage. One of us will make a statement that comes across to the other as rude or careless and then the hurt party will be upset for half of the day. We've started communicating well by fixing our tone and making sure that what we are saying is coming across correctly. A lot of times we have stopped a simple miscommunication from turning into an argument simply by correcting the way we said something to the other person. Maybe your friend is having a bad day or your spouse is extra tired and said something that came across as rude, hurtful, or cold. Ask them about the comment and let them know that you wanted to clarify the statement. Many times, the person may have made a comment that they didn't mean to come across in a hurtful way and they just didn't realize it. We can't read minds nor can our friends, spouses, or family members so clearly communicate with each other. A relationship can quickly become damaged when we miscommunicate and then we look up one day down the road and realize how silly it was that we didn't just communicate clearly and fix the problem.
So what if I am not at fault?
There are certainly times when we have not ruined the relationship but it has been the other party that caused the strife. When this happens all we can do is make sure that we have made sure our heart is clear and forgive the person who wronged us. If you have done your part and they still won't accept reconciliation, then you have to accept that the ball is out of your court. There are times when a person just can't reconcile and move on with life. It is sad, but it happens!
This goes without saying but....
*Of course there are times when a person is dangerous to your well-being and it is time to stop pursuing the relationship and get away. Any person in an abusive situation needs to get out and get far away from the abuser. Whether the abuser is abusing you physically, emotionally, mentally, or all of the above it is time to get out as fast as you can. That is non-negotiable, friend! Of course you have to forgive the person for the wrongdoing but that does not mean you stay and endure the abuse. I am a firm believer that God changes people and can work miracles (He works miracle everyday and changes us when we accept Him as our Savior). I believe this 110%. God can certainly change the heart of someone who is abusive and turn them into a saved and loving person as I have seen this happen before. However, until that change occurs, you don't allow someone to harm you or your children (if applicable) in any way.*
There was a not-so-long-ago season in my life where I did some damage in my relationships with those that I love. I went through a season where I lost who I was and ended up pridefully acting as if I knew everything about everything. I look back and cringe at the way I acted and don't even recognize the person that I was. I was hypocritical. I was stubborn. I eventually did snap out of it and had a lot of reconciling to do. It was really uncomfortable and a bit awkward but I made things right by apologizing and knew that I had to then forgive myself and move on. Thankfully my relationships with those that I love is stronger than ever and thriving. God's grace is always sufficient!
If you have damaged a relationship with someone and know that you need to make it right; go! Go fast because life is really short and we are never guaranteed tomorrow. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have been wronged in any relationship then all you can do is forgive, keep putting forth the effort to be a good friend, spouse, business partner, etc., and pray that God will work on their heart.